Incipient merger of Cls 11 and 5 in Xhosa?

  • Derek Gowlett
  • Tessa Dowling


In Xhosa, there appears to be an incipient merger between Noun Classes 5 and 11, as revealed by frequent mismatches between Cl. 11 nouns and various concordial elements, and even the replacement of the Cl. 11 noun prefix by that of Cl. 5. In this article we explore possible reasons for this putative merger, and present findings of a pilot study to determine whether such merger is underway. Our data comes from written literature, oral narratives, our own interviews, and cloze tests. Large-scale corpora of conversational speech in various dialects would be necessary for more conclusive results. The fact that this merger is still in progress is revealed by dialectal and idiolectal differences, and by uncertainty or inconsistency on the part of Xhosa-speakers regarding which agreement to use, and it is not possible to say whether there will ultimately be a complete merger, or just a partial merger.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2305-1159
print ISSN: 0257-2117